Most people have gone through the back and forth of “maybe I should get help” and “nah I’m fine”.
Let’s say you went through that internal debate for a few weeks, then ultimately decided to go see someone. Great! So you go, and you talk, and you realize, wow, this is really helping. So you keep going, and you keep talking, and you keep getting better.
Several appointments go by, and you get to a place where you’re finally feeling like yourself again. You begin to consider if you need to go anymore. If you’re feeling so much better, do you even need therapy anymore? You might rationalize that by stopping, you’re giving that time to someone else who may need it more than you. Maybe you end up stopping, and maybe you keep feeling better. But maybe you don’t. Maybe you start feeling bad again and end up kicking yourself for not continuing. You come to the realization that even if you think you don’t need it, therapy is important and can be very beneficial.
Think of it this way. If you’ve ever come down with a bacterial infection, like strep throat, you’re given a prescription and told to take the whole bottle. You might feel fine after a week of taking it, but if you don’t finish the bottle, the bacteria could come back.
I think mental health is a lot like this. If you stop counseling the moment you start feeling better, you might notice that you take a step backwards. You didn’t finish the whole bottle, so your symptoms return.
You might take ibuprofen the moment you feel a headache coming on, or even before if you know it’s a hot day and you are prone to headaches in the heat. In order to prevent it coming, you take measures to help your body.
Therapy is the same way. Sometimes even if you’re feeling fine, it’s important to take preventative measures to make sure you’re staying in touch with your feelings. By talking to a mental health professional, you may uncover things you didn’t even know were bothering you and handle them before they become a problem.
I recently lost a family member I was very close to. At first I felt ok; I was obviously struggling and grieving, but I didn’t necessarily feel as sad as I thought I would. It was hard for me to cry, I just didn’t feel the urge. As the weeks went by, however, I began to notice that I was becoming incredibly anxious. I couldn’t understand what was going on. I wasn’t improving over time, and my mental health was slipping. I found it hard to function and do everyday tasks.
Finally, I called the counseling center at my school, and coincidentally a grief support group was meeting that very moment. I was able to join the group, and over time found myself improving with leaps and bounds. I was able to cry and release my emotions, and my anxiety lessened. But I never felt the urge to stop going. I knew that this group had helped me tremendously, and that if I stopped, I might notice myself taking a step backwards.
In the middle of this, a friend came to me for help dealing with his own grief. He had lost a close friend in high school, and as the anniversary of their death approached, he found himself anxious and emotional, and in a very similar state that I had been in. I told him about the group I was seeing, telling him how much it had helped me, and seemed like it would be the perfect thing to help him, too. He agreed to come, but as the week went on, he found himself feeling a lot better.
“I don’t think I need to come,” he told me. “I’m feeling so much better.”
So he didn’t come. And ultimately, that’s his call. He knows what’s best for him, and I cast no judgments on his choices. I can’t help but wonder how he will feel in the future. Without this outlet to cope with his loss, will he find himself back in that state later on? He didn’t finish the bottle, so will his symptoms come back?
Therapy isn’t for everyone. I know plenty of people who have tried and said it didn’t work for them, and that’s ok. But if you find that it does help you, I’d advise you to keep going, even if you’re feeling better. A lot of that is probably because you are in therapy and have an outlet to sort through your feelings. Cutting this sort may result in taking steps backwards. Just as we take care of our body, we must take care of our mind.
Can’t decide if you need help? Here’s 5 reasons why you should check it out: Giving Therapy a Try